Description: A common disorder that affects both cats and dogs and manifests itself in various patterns of hair loss as well as soreness and inflammation of the skin. If you discover that your pet has a lackluster coat, thinning hair, bald patches or is suffering from any form of skin irritation, then it’s important to talk to your vet and try to identify the underlying cause.
What to Watch For: Alopecia often occurs in specific breeds and is typically seen on the ears, head, thighs, chest and belly, although it is not limited to these areas and can affect dogs and cats of all ages. It can also vary in severity and is linked to numerous different factors, the most common of which is mange, a skin condition caused by the Dermodex mite. Alopecia can present itself in varying degrees, from a single bald patch, to localized, patchy or symmetrical hair loss, or it can spread across the whole body. There may also be crusting or scaling of the skin.
Causes: Alopecia can actually be a sign of a number of different conditions which is why it can be so difficult to diagnose. Some of the main causes include hormonal imbalances, stress, parasites or allergies to food and flea bites. It can also be hereditary or caused by skin or bacterial infections.
Diagnosis: To diagnose the cause and any underlying issues, the veterinarian will first have to analyze both the severity and the pattern of hair loss while taking into consideration the animal’s history and breed characteristics. Since hair loss is a common side effect of several medical conditions, there are a number of diagnostic tests that can be performed to help determine the cause. These may include taking hair samples or skin scraping to identify any parasites on the skin. Other diagnostic options include allergy testing, or blood and urine tests, particularly if hormonal problems are thought to be the issue.
Treatment: Since it is usually a sign of another condition, alopecia is generally not treatable in itself. Depending on the outcome of the diagnosis, veterinarians commonly prescribe medicated shampoos along with antibiotics. The veterinarian may also recommend a flea or anti-fungal treatment, while for allergies, they may prescribe antihistamines and a special diet. If hormonal problems are detected, this is usually treated over a period of time with medication.
Breeds prone to Alopecia include: